Toledo’s Jeff Lerg surrenders a goal against Colorado in the first period on Wednesday night. STANDOUT IMAGERY
The Walleye had trouble putting pucks on net as they were held to a season low in shots on goal and dropped Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals in overtime on Wednesday night.
Toledo was outshot 31-12 at the Budweiser Events Center but managed to push the game to OT before the Walleye fell 4-3 in overtime to Colorado. The Eagles secured a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series. Games 4 and 5 will take place in Colorado Friday and Saturday.
Colorado tallied the game-winning goal 1:20 into overtime as Julien Nantel scored. Toledo goalie Jeff Lerg finished with 27 saves, including some key stops throughout.
Walleye defenseman Matt Caito scored a power-play goal with 8:00 left in regulation to tie it at 3. Caito scored on a blast from the top of the left circle on assists from Shane Berschbach and Simon Denis.
Caito, who was wearing a full cage mask in the third period after taking a stick to the face in the second period, finished with a goal and an assist.
The previous mark for fewest shots for the Walleye in a game this season was 18 on April 2 against Fort Wayne at the Huntington Center in a 2-0 loss.
Walleye coach Dan Watson said the shot totals were not completely accurate, but were not far off.
“At the same time, it wasn't much more. So obviously that's not up to our standards,” Watson said. “We did not create shots and did not get pucks to net. We want more. We have to play with speed and move our feet.”
But Watson said the difference in the game were repeated defensive breakdowns.
“We have to be stronger on our net front. Three of their goals came from point shots where they were crashing the net,” Watson said. “We lost body positioning. If we clean that up I think we will still score goals. We had too many breakdowns.”
The official shot total said the Walleye attempted 43 shots. But 14 were blocked, 17 were off target, and 12 were on goal; of those, nine were saved and three found the back of the net.
Colorado coach Aaron Schneekloth said his team was ready to defend in all three zones.
“We had to be ready because they have such a great transition game. They are a very mobile group,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we did our best positionally to slow that down and for the most part we did. But they still capitalized on our mistakes and that's why we have to stay sharp.”
The Eagles took a 3-2 lead 3:31 into the third period on a shot from the point by Sergei Boikov. Lerg was screened in front on the blast from long distance.
The teams each scored two goals in the opening period. The Walleye scored on two of their three shots in the opening stanza. Toledo had just three shots in each of the first two periods.
Kyle Bonis and Tylor Spink scored the even-strength goals as Toledo briefly led 2-1.
The Eagles had taken an instant 1-0 lead just 14 seconds into the game on a deflection in front of Lerg by Shawn St-Amant.
The Walleye then scored on their first shot of the game when Bonis beat Toledo native and Colorado starting goalie Lukas Hafner (nine saves). Bonis scored his team-high 10th goal of the playoffs on assists from A.J. Jenks and Matt Caito.
Caito said he took a stick to the face a the game's midpoint. He then went to the locker room and received 11 stitches before coming back in the third.
“It was back to my college days [with the cage],” he said. “But I got used to it five minutes after that. It was a great pass from Berschy and any shot is good in the playoffs.”
Tylor Spink then tallied his fourth goal of the playoffs to give the Walleye their one-goal cushion. His brother Tyson Spink set him up and Evan Rankin earned the second assist.
“It seemed like we had a ton of chances but they weren't hitting the net,” Rankin said. “We have to have tunnel vision and hit the net.”
Colorado forward Alex Belzile scored his ECHL-leading 13th goal of the playoffs to tie it back up with 2:37 left in the opening period.
“They came out guns ablazing, which we knew they would,” Watson said. “But we took a 2-1 lead and I thought, 'Here we go.' But it was just one of those things were we stopped generating offense.”
Colorado had an 8-3 edge in shots after one period and Lerg had six saves on eight shots. The Eagles had a 10-3 advantage in shots in the second.
The teams were tied at 2 after two periods. The Walleye had two power plays in the second period but could not take advantage.
Lerg came up with a solid save to keep it tied with 3:14 left in the second. He followed that with another fine stop with 2:33 left in the period.
The Walleye went on their second power play 4:33 into the second period. But it was negated as they were then called for too many men on the ice. Toledo then killed off a Colorado power play that lasted 1:14.
The Walleye then went on their third power play of the game late in the second, but did not get a shot. There was not much Lerg could do on the quick deflection that put Colorado up 1-0 to start the game.
On the game winner by Nantel, the shot deflected off Walleye forward Alden Hirschfeld's stick.
Toledo was out-shot 4-1 in overtime. Lerg made two great saves to keep the game going early in regulation.
“Lerg had two huge saves there and we can't rely on him as much as we do,” Rankin said.
The Walleye were 1 of 4 on the power play. The Eagles finished 0 of 3.
Colorado goalie Lukas Hafner makes a save during the first period against Toledo. STANDOUT IMAGERY
Walleye vs. Colorado
Game 1: Walleye 4, Colorado 2
Game 2: Colorado 4, Walleye 3
Game 3: Colorado 4, Walleye 3, OT (Colorado leads series 2-1)
Game 4: Friday, 9:05 p.m., at Colorado
Game 5: Saturday, 9:05 p.m., at Colorado
Game 6: Monday, 7:35 p.m., at Toledo*
Game 7: Wednesday, 7:35 p.m., at Toledo*
* if necessary
All games on BCSN and 1230 AM